On the Wings of a Dove

The quote in my last post reminded me of this country gospel song, Wings of a Dove. It was written by Robert Bruce Ferguson in 1958. Two years later, pioneering country music entertainer in the 50’s, Ferlin Husky, took country music onto the pop chart with his recording of the song. It is based on the Biblical story Noah’s Ark, particularly the passage Genesis 8:6-12. After 40 days adrift on the flooded earth, Noah sent out a dove to find out if the water had dried up from the land. After a couple attempts, the dove returned with an olive leaf in its mouth, so Noah knew the water had begun to recede from the earth. The image of the dove carrying an olive branch became an enduring symbol of peace in Christian art.

In other areas of scripture, the dove also represents the Holy Spirit. Matthew 3:16, Luke 3:22, and John 1:32-33 recount Jesus’ baptism at the Jordan River. After Jesus prays, heaven opens and the Holy Spirit comes down in the form of a dove. The moment is linked to God the Father’s love as a voice from above says, “You are my Son, whom I love, and I am very pleased with you.

It’s a wonderful song to listen to during challenging times, a reminder that God is with us, and His plans for us will prevail.

For more gospel music see these quotes:

Just a Little Talk With Jesus

God’s Coloring Book

This Little Light of Mine

Two Are Better Than One

The phrase that stands out for me in Chapter 4 of Ecclesiastes is “two are better than one.”  Ecclesiastes 4:9.  To get the entire idea you must read further:

Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
10 If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
12 Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”  Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Of course, this is a section of Scripture often read at marriages.  Having just celebrated my 49th anniversary, I certainly agree that life has been better with a companion to walk and stand with me, to help me up when I feel weak or discouraged.

However, I think it also appeals to me because teamwork is one of my core values (see L. A. T. C. H. On To Your Core Values). I’ve seen T-E-A-M used as an acronym to say “together everyone accomplishes more.”  I truly enjoy working with a group, and  I’ve completed projects with other people that I would never have considered doing on my own.  Genesis tells us:

“The LORD God also said, “It is not good for the man to be alone….”Genesis 2:18

We were created to be in relationship with others — and with God!  That’s the reason “a cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”  God strengthens any relationship He joins.  In fact, without God, our ties to one another quickly fall apart.  Only with God’s help can we remain forgiving, self-sacrificing, and loving.

If you have a spouse, a dear friend, a helpful co-worker, a cherished sibling, give thanks!  Two are always better than one!

For more on the book of Ecclesiastes see:

A Time to Die

Hoping for Something New?

God Moments in Ecclesiastes

 

God is at Work

The gospel reading recently in church was from the story of Joseph and his brothers, in the book of Genesis.  The brothers are afraid that once their father dies, Joseph, remembering how they sold him into slavery in Egypt, will take revenge.  They go to him humbly apologizing.  Here is his response:

“…. ‘Do not fear, for am I in the place of God?  As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”  Genesis 50:19-20

Each week in Sunday School, after I’ve completed our opening prayer, I ask the class “how have you seen God at work this week?”  Usually the answers involve things like the beauty in nature, someone who has recovered from an illness, a word of encouragement, or a need that was met.  One person called them “mini-miracles.”  It’s wonderful to notice and give thanks for these.  However, it’s also important to realize that God is at work even when things are not going well.  Consider the case of Joseph, mentioned in the gospel reading above.  He was treated badly by his brothers, he endured slavery and prison.  Things looked bleak.  Yet, God was at work.  Through difficulties that seemed undeserved, He positioned Joseph to save his family.

There are other examples in the Bible.  The Israelites wander in the wilderness for 40 years — but through that experience, they draw closer to God.  Naomi and Ruth are left widowed and destitute — but through God’s provision, Ruth remarries and becomes an ancestress of Jesus. Jesus dies on the cross — but in so doing, atones for our sins and reconciles us with the Father.

Many of us are going through difficult times right now.  Some has lost jobs or incomes;  churches can’t meet in the accustomed way;  many have become isolated, anxious and depressed.  Yet God is at work.  From our limited viewpoint, things are bad, but God is not limited and His plans are good.  Take heart.  The best is yet to come.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”  Romans 8:28

 

What is Enough?

I was recently watching a television program about therapy. A therapist was counseling a married couple. He told them that he observed that their relationship had started with a great deal of passion, and that they were still passionate people. However, passion was not enough to sustain a lifelong relationship. “What is enough?” inquired the wife. The therapist’s reply– “I don’t know.”

I’m not trained in this field, but I do know the answer to the question:  God.  God is the component that makes it possible for two flawed and sinful human beings to remain faithful to one another for life.  Listen to these words from Ecclesiastes:

” Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.”  Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

In case you haven’t thought about it, the third strand in the cord is God.  God did not mean for us to be alone.  In Genesis we read:

The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”  Genesis 2:18

The helper God gave Adam was needed to complete him–to make him whole.  Adam acknowledges this saying,

“This is now bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman,’
for she was taken out of man.”

That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is to his wife, and they become one flesh.” Genesis 2:23-24

When something becomes part of your very being, it is not meant to be removed.  Parting is an amputation of sorts.  This kind of relationship was possible for Adam and Eve because their relationship with one another started with and was based upon their relationship with God.  Sin changed things, but the foundation remains.  To love one another, we must love God and ground ourselves in Him.  That’s the way it can last.  That’s enough.

For more on marriage see these posts:

Thanks for Husbands!

Marriage: A School for Forgiveness

In Marriage Relationships

 

In the Beginning

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.   Genesis 1:1

I’m writing this post from the Annual Conference of the AFLC (Association of Free Lutheran Churches) being held at Spruce Lake Retreat Center in Pennsylvania. The presentation on the first day of the conference was given by a professor on the topic of evolution vs. creation.  These days, it is assumed that everything, including mankind, came about through some sort of cosmic accident.  We simply evolved.  When looking at the evidence, this is revealed to be another example of what I call “stinkin’ thinkin’.”

Why?  Well, one indication that something was created by an intelligent designer is the complexity and specificity of the item.  For example, do you look at a picture of Mount Rushmore and say, “this was formed through centuries of wind and erosion?”  No.  You look at it and say, “this is so complex and specific that someone created it.  You can not only see faces, you can tell who those faces are meant to be.”

Dr. Bierle explained to us that each human being has a genetic code.  This code is comprised of four letters made into three letter words.  The letters making up genetic code for one person would fill 850 Bibles!  That’s pretty complex and specific.  Do you really believe this could occur by accident?

If you would like to learn more about how to speak convincingly about why the theory of evolution is not as plausible as belief in an intelligent creator, the link below will take you to FaithSearch International, which is Dr. Bierle’s organization:

https://faithsearch.org/

 

Family Faith

I wrote this article for our denomination’s publication, The Lutheran Ambassador.  It appeared in this month’s issue (February 2019) and I thought I would also share it here.  It deals with passing the faith on to our children.

People need structure.  It gives a sense of security and a framework on which to build and base daily life.  God knew this, and so from the very beginning, He  blessed humankind with a rhythm of life that would shape our relationship with Him.

“… God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all his work which he had done in creation.”  Genesis 2:3

A little later, this becomes one of the Ten Commandments:

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God.” Exodus 20:8-10a

When our children were young, Sunday Services were simply a fixture of life.  Sometimes we didn’t feel like getting up; sometimes our daughters were cranky, or somebody didn’t feel so well; sometimes the weather was nasty; still we went, week after week, year after year.  What did our children (and now our grandchild) gain from this dogged persistence? The world might say, not much…. a meaningless ritual!  I beg to disagree and here are a few of my observations.

First of all, they came to understand that God is important, and so is His body, the Church.  The things of faith are not kept in a separate compartment, to be brought out on holidays or special occasions.  They are part of the ebb and flow of daily life.

Through the weekly liturgy, our children internalized the basics of the Christian faith.  They memorized the Lord’s Prayer and the Apostle’s Creed, as well as many passages from the Scripture which we recited or sang every Sunday.  They learned that we need to confess, repent, pray and give thanks regularly.  They learned that our monetary offering gives back to God a small part of what He’s already given to us. I remember hearing our daughters and our nephew “play church” as they sang parts of the service together.

Sunday services also walked us together through the seasons of the church year and the life of Christ.  There were joyous times and sad times, times to reflect and times to anticipate.  Each season had its’ own particular music and rituals. Advent meant lighting the advent candles and singing “O Come, O Come, Emanuel”, Lent was the time when flowers on the altar disappeared and songs became somber (“Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?”)  Easter brought lilies and “Christ the Lord Has Risen Today” along with flowering the cross (made from the church Christmas tree) which had stood, plain and empty in the sanctuary until Easter morning.

To be continued …..

The LORD is my shepherd

We all know the verse (Psalm 23). Over and over again God compares himself to a shepherd to give us a picture of how He loves us.

Yet we learn early on in the bible that this profession is not highly thought of.

Genesis 43:32 “They served him by himself, the brothers by themselves, and the Egyptians who ate with him by themselves, because Egyptians could not eat with Hebrews, for that is detestable to Egyptians.”

This was before Moses, before the long documented rivalry (sometimes brotherhood) of the two nations. This was before Israel was even a nation. So why did they refuse to eat with them? Hebrews were shepherds.

Genesis 46:33 & 34 “When Pharaoh calls you in and asks, ‘What is your occupation?’ you should answer, ‘Your servants have tended livestock from our boyhood on, just as our fathers did.’ Then you will be allowed to settle in the region of Goshen, for all shepherds are detestable to the Egyptians.”

There’s that word ‘detestable’ again. Why did the Egyptians think it was so bad? Lots of people have opinions on this, and not many agree on why. I think the Egyptians were simply grossed out. Anyone on a ranch or farm knows that tending to animals is dirty, smelly, laborious work. Joseph’s brothers probably smelled a bit. Think about it. Sweat, animal poo, the lack of indoor plumbing at thier disposal.

So knowing how Egyptians felt, Joseph wisely advises his family to tell the Pharaoh what they do for a living. And they are allowed to settle in a fertile land separately and quietly.

God knows we sheep are a lot of work. Still he meets us where we are. Smelly and unclean, and he takes us by still waters to freshen us up. Thank you God for serving in a less than glamorous way. And forgive us when we think we we’re above any similar task. Amen.

Taking Care of Our Spouse

“Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone.  I will make a helper suitable for him.”

In the beginning, God saw that Adam needed companionship, so He gave him a gift.  He gave him a wife, Eve, who became the mother of his children.  Sometimes we forget that our spouse is a blessing, and we’re meant to take care of that blessing wisely just as we’re called to be stewards of everything God has given us.

My husband and I have been married for almost 46 years.  After all that time, it’s easy to become complacent, to settle into familiar routines, and to take one another for granted.  It’s so much easier to complain than to appreciate. I certainly am guilty of feeling aggrieved about the few things my husband doesn’t do for me while ignoring the many things he does. When I fall into this sinful thinking I need to remember this scripture about how God expects us to relate to one another:

“Submit to one another, out of reverence for the Christ.”  Ephesians 5:21

Submitting means to yield our own rights.  In other words, put the other person first. Think about what is best for them.  I’m sure many quarrels (and even divorces) would be avoided by following this simple advice. The verse also tells us WHY we need to do this — it shows respect for the other person, but also respect and reverence for Christ.  It shows our gratitude for the great gift God has given.  Think about it.  How do you feel when you give your child a new bike, only to find he has it out in the rain to rust?  How do you feel if a week or a month after getting the bike of his dreams, he’s wishing for a different model?  That’s not the way to treat a gift.  No parent would be happy with such behavior.

If you are married, give thanks today for your spouse — a gift and a blessing from God.

 

New Month/New Theme

Our theme for this month is obedience –not a popular concept in our culture.  Oh, we may obey in some ways because the consequences for disobedience are unpleasant:  speed or run a red light, and you’ll get a ticket and a fine;  refuse to get to work on time and you’ll be fired;  steal and you may go to jail … things like this.  For the most part, however, we’re taught to be our own person, follow our bliss, resist being a “door mat.”  Behaving this way will (supposedly) lead to happiness and fulfillment. This idea isn’t anything new.  Go back to the book of Judges (which we’ve been studying in our Sunday School class) and you will find that “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”(Judges 21:25). Sound familiar?  Or even further back, to Genesis when Eve decides “that it(the tree) was good for food and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desired to make one wise” and so she ate it, going against God’s clear instructions to the contrary.” We humans have been a disobedient bunch, almost since day 1.

So this month let’s ask ourselves the hard questions.  Do we want to be obedient to God?  Why should we obey Him?  What are the results of obedience (and disobedience)?  How do we even know what God’s will for us is?

Send us your ideas and questions.  The Lutheran Ladies will be listening, praying and posting.

Remember God loves you and so do we!